Early in writing Fantastic America and the Magic Unleashed series, I struggled with word count. I had no idea what was acceptable or not. What I did know was that the book I’d started had grown exponentially. The word count for the book was already well over 100,000, and I wasn’t anywhere near the halfway mark.
While I tried to figure out what to do about it, I came across a blog post about word count. Imagine my surprise to learn that no publisher in their right mind would take on a 400,000+ word debut monstrosity. Several heart-wrenching edits later, I had a kernel for each of the four books that currently make up the series. Fantastic America hadn’t existed in any form up until then. The ideas I have for the books after the first four were a distant dream at best.
All of that started with word count. There are plenty of articles out there that explain why word count matters so much. Here are a few simple ideas related to word count. Books with longer word counts cost more to print. They take up more room on a shelf in a store. Both of these are reasons for a publisher to pass on your book. For traditional publishing, these reasons alone can stop a book deal.
Here is an even simpler idea. My magnum opus (if I ever write one) will come after years of experience, honing my craft along the way. It will not be my first novel (I hope). So that 400K monster I’d started would have been a mess, unsellable, and likely unreadable. Publishers take a calculated risk with debut authors. Following the genre-specific conventions for debut books is part of that calculation. Exceeding those conventions isn’t just a larger risk it means your book probably isn’t ready for publishing anyway. Some authors can break publishing guidelines, but not with their first book. We have to prove that we can write books that sell before we break the rules.